Work to begin to quiet London’s noisiest line

Photo credit: Alessio Cesario

by Arline L. Bronzaft, Ph.D., Board of Directors, GrowNYC, Co-founder, The Quiet Coalition, and Honorary Chair, Quiet American Skies

The London Northern Line between Camden Town and Euston stations will have work done on its tracks to lessen the noise of what has been identified as the noisiest of the Tube lines. Complaints from residents from 2018 to 2022 identified the Northern line as the noisiest line in the city of London.

It should also be noted that London’s Transport unions had threatened to strike in 2019 if excessive levels of transit noise were not adequately addressed. In response, before COVID, London had been testing out a procedure to quiet the tracks on its Jubilee transit line which yielded promising results.

London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan informed Londoners that a program to lessen track noise on the Northern line would begin shortly, but other lines requiring noise reduction treatments would have to wait until additional funds would be available. He added that this might take some time.

My interest in transit noise dates back to the 1970s in New York City when I conducted a study that demonstrated that passing train noise adversely affected classroom learning in a school adjacent to the elevated subway tracks. Fortunately, the Transit Authority responded quickly by placing resilient rubber pads on the tracks adjacent to the school and the Board of Education installed acoustical treatment in the ceilings of the impacted classrooms. A later study found that the noise reductions resulted in improved reading scores.

I continued to learn more about transit noise and worked with the New York City Transit Authority to seek ways to lessen train noise. We discovered that when train noise is reduced, the system faces fewer breakdowns and works more efficiently. The following paper looks at the relationship between transit noise and the overall performance of the transit system.

I would suggest that London’s transit officials read the paper cited above. They might realize that investing money in transit noise reduction would not only make the system a more comfortable one for both residents and transit workers but it might yield money savings in that there would be fewer breakdowns and the need for increased maintenance expenses.

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